Carrie-Anne Moss knows a thing or two about digital dangers. The Matrix star not only broke out in a role that saw her fighting for reality, but she also fears the proliferation of technology. “I grapple with it all,” she tells EW. “I’m not sure we’re meant to move that fast, you know?”
On the flip side, Moss’ character on Humans, Dr. Athena Morrow, can’t get enough of the artificial. A prominent researcher in the field of AI, she joins season 2 as one of many experts looking into consciousness and how synths can feel after Niska (Emily Berrington) releases the code that begins “waking” them up. But underneath her chilly exterior, Morrow hides a past that deeply affected her — and may have set her on her dogged path to find a way to create consciousness in the first place.
Below, Moss talks filming the series, how she’d view a world of synths, and what to expect from the second season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What drew you to this role?
CARRIE-ANNE MOSS: I loved the first season a lot. I hadn’t seen it until it came to me as an opportunity, so then I watched it and just loved it, and I was so happy I found it. I thought Athena Morrow sounded amazing, and I couldn’t say yes quickly enough.
What about her stood out to you?
I liked the layers of her story, and I have to say my commitment to the show was really in response to the whole picture of it. I loved the parts of her where you really feel her humanity, and you get to understand her journey and the pain that she carries and why she does what she does. I think that was really what drew me to her.
Can you tell me a bit about where that pain comes from?
You know, she’s a very respected scientist who does what she does quietly and without fanfare, but she ends up joining a company run by this guy named Milo Khoury, who she doesn’t really respect. She doesn’t respect the way he goes about his business, she thinks he’s a bit of a show-off. He doesn’t stand for the kind of integrity that she has, but she ends up saying yes, and we’ll discover why she says yes. The reasoning, again, is just really personal.
She’s very much interested in this idea of consciousness in a synthetic. She doesn’t necessarily feel that it’s possible — in fact, she doesn’t think it’s possible — but she starts to get the inkling that there is the potential of it. There are many layers of conversations around the idea, around what the show is talking about. It’s endless.
Let’s talk about those conversations. Having worked on this show, what’s your take now on artificial intelligence? Is AI a tool to help humanity or something to be wary of?
I have to say that I’m not really hip to all the things that are happening. Marshall [Allman], who plays Milo, is up-to-date on all of it. I’m still stuck at, you know, the iPhone and how invasive that is itself. They manage so much of our lives. There’s no break anymore, unless you’re disciplined enough to make sure you get a break. I think it’s especially hard for younger people growing up with this technology as just an extension of them, you know? Obviously there are a lot of great things that technology does medically and with the way we’re connecting all over the world, but I don’t know if we fully understand the ramifications yet.
How much of a challenge was it for you, then, to be playing someone who wanted technology to develop at a faster pace?
Oh no, I loved that! I loved exploring that, I was all about that. I think the hardest part was actually acting to a computer. I had a lot of scenes with “V,” an AI software [created by Athena]. She’s a computer program, and I did scenes to a computer screen. That’s hard to do, to make that feel and make every scene different. We had an actress on the side every day who read V’s lines, and that was very helpful.
What do you hope people take away from this second season? The first was very much about family and very insular; this season expands the world and introduces new conscious synths like Hester (Sonya Cassidy, above).
You know, I don’t know, but I think the thing I’m most excited about is that it’s a show that I can watch with my teenager and we can have interesting conversations around it. I love finding that common ground, to have these big conversations and think about humanity. That’s healthy and important, what I think ultimately art is for. Movies and television and music and poetry are so important right now, and I’m excited to be a part of a conversation that really brings the humanity in. It’s not called Humans for nothing, right? [Laughs] That’s what I love about it. You care about every one of the characters in that first season, you care about the synths, you care about the humans, and just when you feel like you’re so in love with one character, you fall in love with another.
That’s what we’re really going to feel in the second season. We’re also going to feel the ramifications of a world that has gone that way, where human beings don’t know where they fit [in terms of] are there still jobs for humans? I think we can all relate to that when we go to the grocery store and there isn’t a checkout person anymore, and you’re just scanning [on your own]. I’m always in line for the one person you can check out with. At what point do you get so connected in life that you’re not with people? We can’t always think that through.
Humans returns Monday, Feb. 13, at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.